April 2013

The Fine Art of Sensing the Wind

The cheapest wind indicators are bestowed at birth: your nose, the back of your neck, and your fingers. Forget digital precision; these wind indicators are dialed in. They even sense changes in temperature that, in squally weather, can signal a sudden backing wind. Even the most sophisticated wind sensors can’t compete with a direct skin-to-brain link. The next step up from our dermal cells is a bit of yarn in the shrouds—super light Angora wool, if you’re a stickler. Here, the eyes intervene in the process, so the brain must do a bit more exercise. We’ll call this soft technology.

Bends and Breaks: Anchor Shank Strength

Subscribers Only As more and more anchor-makers source their materials and move their fabricating offshore, Practical Sailor has been fielding an increasing number of questions about anchor quality. Is the tensile-strength steel used to fabricate anchors consistent with the application? Is anyone actually measuring shank strength? And how much does it matter? At the heart of this discussion is shank strength. There seems little point in having a high holding-capacity anchor, if the shank isn’t strong enough to cope with projected loads.

Used Boat Review: Gulfstar 36

Subscribers Only The Gulfstar 36, also called the Gulfstar 36 Auxiliary, was the smallest boat built by Gulfstar Yachts. Gulfstar, which produced 2,500 boats in the 1970s and 1980s, was launched by Vincent Lazzara, one of the early experts in fiberglass boat building. The Gulfstar 36 design is conservatively traditional—it was never called a racer-cruiser, but it was similar to many popular racer-cruisers and coastal cruisers of the time, with modest overhangs, a longish waterline, a moderately long fin keel, and a skeg-hung rudder. The designers are listed as R.C. Lazzara and David Jones.

Best Mid-priced Marine Stereos

Subscribers Only As a follow-up to our August 2012 evaluation of budget-friendly marine audio systems, we recently tested five mid-priced marine stereos, three of which came kitted with speakers. The products in this round of testing retail for $180 to $350 and are a step up in quality, water-resistance, and features from the stereo-speaker packages ($200 or less) we reviewed last year. A quality marine stereo should be corrosion resistant, with coated circuit boards and no ferrous parts. We limited this test field to stereos rated IPX5 or higher.

In the Wake of a Storm

Sailing west from the Turkish port of Marmaris, we reached across the Aegean Sea with its notorious meltemi wind blowing hard from the north before rounding the southern end of the Greek Peloponnese. We were headed for our winter destination near Rome, when a new forecast warned of an extensive frontal system approaching from the west. With gale-force winds and heavy rain predicted for several days, we needed a new plan. The narrow, sheltered Vliho Bay on the Greek island of Lefkas, seemed to be the ideal anchorage for us to wait for the front to pass.

Garmin BlueCharts Mobile Sea Trial

Subscribers Only Since we last looked at iPad navigation apps, there have—not surprisingly—been a number of new developments. One of the most interesting developments is Garmin’s introduction of the Garmin BlueChart Mobile nav app, which is proving to be an important addition to the field. The app is usable on iPads, iPhones, and iPods with the iOS 6 operating system. Testers also recently looked at the latest versions of iNavX, iSailor, and Navionics, which we previously reviewed.

Indoor Sailboat Refinishing

I am restoring old fiberglass sailing club boats (Rhodes 19s) in a confined, heated space in winter, and I need to paint the topsides, decks, and bilges without poisoning the applicator. What do you suggest for a topside finish (white)? A repairable, long-lasting finish will be valued more than a high-gloss finish. Also, what do you suggest for the bottom paint? The boats will be in fresh water all summer; low environmental toxicity is a high priority.

Where Credit Is Due: April 2013

About six months ago, I bought a Raymarine Smart Controller remote for my autopilot. It is a great unit that I have come to depend on, especially when single-handing. The Smart Controller plugs into the SeaTalk system and serves as a wireless remote for the autopilot. The weak point in the system is the lightweight lanyard. Recently mine gave way, and the remote bounced twice toward the rail, hung in mid-air, then disappeared overboard. You can imagine my anguish after failing to retrieve it. I contacted Raymarine (www.raymarine.com) and told them my story. I guess it was my lucky day: Long story short, they sent me a new one! I’m a huge Raymarine fan now.

Mailport: April 2013

I recently purchased the cord, and as packaged on the plastic spool, the shore end of the new 25-foot EEL cord has a very tight bend at the plug, in order to force it into the package. The bend is much tighter than I’d normally allow on a power cord, and upon inspection, I noticed what appears to be a separation of the seal between the cord and the plug. I checked other packages on the shelf at my local West Marine (one of many retailers of the cord), and found all of the 25-foot cords have the same tight bend at the shore end, and most have the same apparent seal issue.

A Second Look at Anchor Tests

Anchor testing at Practical Sailor has always been a controversial enterprise, sure to fire up someone. As one reader commented in response our most recent anchor report (PS, March 2013): “Anchors are a whole lot like religion. No matter what the tests show, each of us has a favorite that we’ll defend to the death!” This month, our report on anchor-shank strength approaches the topic from a different angle. Rather than singling out specific anchors for holding power or design, we take a closer look at the way anchors are evaluated and promoted.

Inside Practical Sailor Blog

Going Aloft Sans Butterflies

by Darrell Nicholson on July 29, 2014

When going aloft, you can save yourself a lot of worry and hassle by taking a few simple steps: • Harnesses: Although not as comfortable as traditional chairs, harnesses bring you closer to the top of the mast and are more secure. Wear long pants and good shoes. • Halyards: Use two halyards—one primary, one safety. One should be an external halyard on a ratchet block leading from your harness back to you, so that you can have control over your own safety and ascent/descent. • Shackles and winches: Don’t rely on snap shackles or self-tailing jaws on winches. To attach the halyard to the harness, use locking screw-pin shackles or a buntline knot, which brings you closer to the masthead sheave than a bowline.

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